Amid high drama, the Delhi Police today filed the chargesheet in the gangrape case in a Saket court.
The chargesheet — of which the operative part is said to run into 33 pages — names five accused and charges them with 12 offences under the Indian Penal Code. The sixth accused has been identified as a minor and will be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.
On 16 December, a paramedical student and her friend were brutally attacked by six men in a moving bus. The girl, who was also raped, subsequently succumbed to injuries.
The five accused – Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur have been charged with gangrape, murder, attempt to murder, dacoity, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, dacoity with murder, destruction of evidence, acting with common intention and unnatural offences. The judge posted the next hearing in the case for 5 January.
The accused were not present in the courtroom and no defence counsel representing them was present either when the chargesheet was filed. In keeping with the high level of secrecy that has characterised the government’s handling of this case, the copy of the chargesheet has not been shared and has been electronically filed.
The public prosecutor, Rajiv Mohan, repeatedly urged the judge to ensure utmost secrecy in the case to protect the identity of the victims at all cost. He urged the court that all documents be kept and handed over to the parties involved only in sealed envelopes. In response, the judge asked the public prosecutor to submit an application making the request as it was not in routine procedure in rape cases to do so.
Two lawyers came forward to defend the accused. First, a lawyer, who said she was from legal aid services, told the judge that she was there to represent the accused. She was immediately challenged by the public prosecutor who questioned her appointment.
Subsequently, a lawyer who identified himself as Arjun told the judge that in the eventuality that no one came forward to represent the accused he was willing to volunteer his services as an amicus curie (friend of the court) and defend the accused.
He later told reporters that he was not a member of the Saket Bar Association (which has passed a resolution not to defend the accused) and was volunteering to represent the accused to prevent any stalemate in the case that could arise from the absence of a defence counsel.
Adding to what had already turned out to be a dramatic day in court, a curious character dressed in a saffron robe and looking like a sadhu set off a minor commotion when he started shouting inside the courtroom that the accused to be handed over to the public. “This is an open and shut case. There is no need for a trial. Hand the accused over to the public,” he said. He was immediately silenced by the lawyers and removed from the courtroom.
Before the chargesheet was filed, the police kept an anxious crowd of lawyers and reporters guessing till the very last minute. At around 5.30 pm, a member of the court staff informed a packed courtroom that the judge before whom the chargesheet was scheduled to be filed had left.
Reacting to this announcement, some members of the Pragati Sheel Mahila Sangathan (who had protested outside court complex earlier today) who were present in the courtroom said this was yet another instance of the ‘non-serious’ and ‘insensitive’ handling of the case by the police and the judiciary.
Only after reporters and lawyers demanded to know when and where the chargesheet would be filed, did the court staff reveal that it would be filed before a different judge — that is, the duty magistrate who hears cases after designated court hours.
However, on finding that the duty magistrate’s courtroom was locked, a commotion broke out with lawyers and reporters banging on the door. “Why this secrecy,” one lawyer asked the police who had arrived at the scene. A near stampede-like situation ensued with a mad rush to enter the courtroom after it had been opened.
One of the lawyers went on register his complaint with judge. Given that in-camera proceedings of the trial (all rape cases are held in-camera) had not yet begun, he told the judge, directions should be given not to prevent access into the courtroom or deny information regarding the developments in the case.